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‘Million Dollar Quartet’ gives peek into musical moment

10/17/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Tunes from Elvis, Johnny Cash in show

“Million Dollar Quartet” will take the stage at The University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall Oct. 22-23.
Photo: Paul Natkin
DOWNTOWN AKRON — For one brief moment in rock ‘n’ roll history, the stars aligned and brought together four pioneers for an impromptu recording session.

Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins assembled in famed Sun Studios in Memphis with producer Sam Phillips on Dec. 4, 1956. The musical “Million Dollar Quartet,” coming to The University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall Oct. 22-23 at 7:30 p.m., recreates that day and also explores the music and careers of the four musicians.

The show premiered in Chicago in 2008 and is still playing there. A two-year Broadway run began in 2010, and it earned a Tony that year (for Best Performance by a Featured Actor) and a nomination for Best Musical.

Vince Nappo, who plays Phillips in the national tour, said in a telephone interview that his fellow performers steal the show.

“The music is phenomenal and these guys do an incredible job,” he said. “[The music] is all played by the actors on stage. They jam this music as a band.”

The show features some of the biggest hits of the early rock era, such as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “That’s All Right,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Walk the Line” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

Nappo, who wasn’t that familiar with the show before being cast more than a year ago, said he knew the moment he saw the production for the first time that he’d made a good move.

“They flew me to Fort Lauderdale to hang out and start rehearsals, and I watched it,” he said. “I just remember sitting in the theater and being kind of thrilled. Now I’m a big fan of the music and the story.”

Nappo said the Phillips character serves as a narrator, who helps carry the story along.

“They are hanging out in the studio, but it shoots off and Sam kind of steps out and time almost freezes and he almost talks to the audience,” he said.

While the actor has come to love the music in the show, he’s also come to appreciate his character and what he did for the four musicians.

“He was the head of Sun Records, the guy who found all of these guys,” Nappo said. “He really helped develop them — they were all kind of raw talent. He was looked at as a guy who pried them open and helped them find their voices.”

Being in the show has also taught him more about the music of the era.

“I’ve become quite fond of a lot of the Carl Perkins stuff,” he said. “Carl had the most musical talent. He didn’t become a superstar icon, and I can relate to that as an actor in this business. I love the underdog.”

Nappo said he’ll continue with the tour through June. He’s not sure what he will do at that point but added that his experience on the ABC series “Red Widow” has opened up some other possibilities as an actor.

“It was such a wonderful experience to do that sort of stuff,” he said. “Those doors have opened up.”

Tickets for “Million Dollar Quartet” range from $36.50 to $56.50 and are available at the Thomas Hall Ticket Office, 198 Hill St., all TicketMaster outlets, at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000. Group orders of 10 or more are available at 855-824-3405. For more information, go to BroadwayInAkron.com.

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